Jock Wallace’s Check Mate

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland


Jock Wallace’s Check Mate

In years gone bye, around 1850 or so, lived a man in Barnhill who had a reputation as a Champion Chess Player.Jock Wallace was his name, a woodsman by trade and a bachelor who was a well known character throughout the village and known to be a very good Chess player who would, at times, play up to six players at the same time in the local hostelries. Jock Wallace's Check Mate

On one November stormy night, a Coach and pair pulled up at the local Tavern and a man alighted and entered therein. He was an unusual figure in his form of dress, with his tall black hat and long flowing black cape. On sight of the stranger, the Landlord stood to address him and asked how he could be of service.

The tall stranger asked for directions to the home of Jock Wallace, a woodsman of the Parish. The Landlord directed him to the second thatched cottage on the left and asked if he could serve him some refreshment. The stranger declined the offer but requested that his Coachman and Pair be catered for and left the hostelry as swiftly as he had come in.

After a quick word with his Coachman, the stranger made his way to the cottage of Jock Wallace through the hail storm.

As the hail racketed against his window, Jock heard a knock knock, knock on his door. With oil lamp in hand he opened the door to be faced with a tall man in a top hat and a long flowing black cape. Jock stepped back to take account of what stood before him, which was an unusual sight in these parts.

We cannot be certain as to how the conversation proceeded but the writer imagines that it might take the following flow.

“Jock Wallace?”, the visitor asked. “Aye”, said Jock still peering at the image in front of him. “What ails ye here this stormy nicht?”. “My name is Donald Black and I’ve come from the Cobbles in York to meet ye and play with ye a final game of Chess.”

Jock, still holding up his lamp and still peering his eyes tae take in the image before him, said, “Aye Okay, come ye ben.” and stepped back allowing the visitor to enter.

The visitor bowed to enter the threshold and shook his cape as to rid it of hail. Jock closed the door and said to the stranger, “Come ben the hoose.”

The stranger took off his tall hat and hung it on the coat peg beside the door as did he with his cape. He stood there for a moment taking in the small whitewashed room with a roaring fire in the hearth.

Jock bid his visitor to take a seat and offered him a wee hauf which the visitor accepted gratefully.

After a while, sat at the table in front of the hearth, Jock asked his visitor as to his quest. “So, ye have come fae York tae see me, can ah ask ye whit fur?”

“I have heard that ye are a Grand Master of Chess and as that is my distinction, I felt it instinctual to investigate the ability of a Chess Master of my time”. So, mine host, I am here to challenge ye to a final and definitive Game of Grand Master Chess, are ye game?”

“If we were tae play,” said Jock, “ whit’s the prize?”

“The Prize is knowing that ye are the true Grand Master and none other can touch ye.”

“Well then,” said Jock, “let us hae a match fur proven’s sake”.

Jock went tae his chest and brought out his prize chess set which he had hand carved himself from a fallen Oak in Milheugh.

He set up the board on the table in front of the roaring fire and refreshed his visitors drink and offered him a fill of his pipe.

The game was now set to begin…

An hour or so later, the tall stranger arrived back at the Tavern and beckoned his Coachman to ready himself. The Landlord asked after his account with Jock which the stranger merely acknowledged with a nod and turned to leave.

The stranger boarded his coach and the Coachman steered the Pair down Peth Brae, heading for his southern destination of York.

Next day being a Sunday, all gathered for their morning worship but none noticed the absence of Jock Wallace. Not even at the ritual archery practice in Archer’s Croft was Jock’s absence noted.

When Jock failed to turn in for work on Monday morning, his apprentice was sent to raise him.

The boy was no more than twelve years old and what he saw when entering Jock Wallace’s cottage after failing to get an answer from his knocks, can only be described as petrifying and the sight before him would be a torment to him for the rest of his life.

The boy ran out of the cottage screeching, “Jock’s deed, Jock’s deed!”.

The first to respond was a passing carter, whose name was not known, as he, on sight of the corpse turned and ran down Bardykes Road pushing his cart in front of him.

In the meantime the boy had reported back to his deputy and tried to describe what he had seen in sheer terror of his life.

The deputy made haste and ran up Peth Brae and down to Jock’s cottage.

Jock was found sitting at his table with an expression on his face which could only be described as ghastly. He too, recoiled back in alarm at the site that lay before him.Jock was found sitting at his table with an expression on his face which could only be described as ghastly. His skeletal, ashen face with a frozen stare was a sight to traumatise even the most hardened and time worn undertakers.

The local constabulary and other officials were called to the scene and an inspection of the cottage took forth.

It was noted that a man, presumably Jock Wallace was seated at a table in front of the hearth and appeared to have suffered a severe trauma and was pronounced dead.

It was also apparent that there were many indentations on the walls, ceiling, floor and even the table of what seemed to be an imprint of a cloven hoof.

Soon, a crowd gathered to inquire as to Jock’s fateful state but as they glimpsed at the foreboding site, they too withdrew to the opposite wall where they huddled in a cluster of despair. Soon, a crowd gathered to inquire as to Jock's fateful state

It was later determined that Jock had died instantly of extreme shock and still holding a chess piece, had been left with an expression of hysteria never before witnessed even to this day.

If Jock had known that this was to be the game of his life and on meeting his opponent, had only noticed his cloven feet, he may have had second thoughts in accepting the challenge from the stranger who purported to be a Grand Master from York who went by the name of Donald Black, probably better known as Black Donald.

An’ if ye dinna ken who Black Donald was, then ye are spared what has gone afore ye…

A short time after this incident was reported, the Cottage was mysteriously burned to the ground.

Bill Sim



Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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